Day Trip to Tangier, the Morocco fiasco: Part 2

This is the only two part post we’ve ever done. But the day trip to Tangier was so ridiculous and filled with folly, that it warrants many specific details in building up to being the worst guided tour ever. If you missed the first part, read here first.

After the man with the Moroccan soccer jerseys blasted me with obscenities, we continued walking through the narrow streets of the Medina. We were now hounded by men selling junky trinkets at 5 times the price that they should have been.

View of the Mediterranean from Tangier
Lovely view of the Mediterranean Sea from Tangier…and a kid pesters our friend

We then arrived at the infamous carpet shop, which inevitably was coming. I had been to Turkey before and knew this was a standard part of tours in these countries. But the guys in Turkey provided 5 star service compared to the Morrocans.

They gathered us in a half circle and the show started. Many men paraded in with carpets, rolling one after another in front of us. The room was hot, there were no fans and we were offered nothing to drink. In the final act of their show, a man appeared with a carpet thrown over his shoulder, wrapped in brown paper with an address, showing they could also ship a large carpet to your home. Before booking the tour, the Spanish travel agent warned us to absolutely not purchase anything you do not receive immediately, because you will never see it.

They were asking 150 euro for these tiny rugs. I look and walk away...
They were asking 150 euro for these tiny rugs. I look and walk away…

After the show it was time to have a closer look at the insanely overpriced carpets and be pestered by the abundance of salesmen. My friend and I expressed interest in a very small rug- “150 euros…very good price my friend!” At that point I was immediately out, but my buddy wanted it and was willing to negotiate. The on and off negotiation lasted nearly an hour and the salesmen finally came down to a reasonable price of €40. Sold. For large carpets they were initially asking upwards of €2,000.

Those in the tour group not interested in carpets were led downstairs to a massive show room of  every house ware item imaginable (and not a single item had an actual price). Anyone interested in anything was initially offered the item at 4-5 times the price it should have been. At that moment I was done trying to buy anything.

Our main tour guide was now sitting next to what appeared to be the owner of this farce of a shop. Earlier in the tour, our group had been sussed out and I was already starting to be disliked. “Hey Florida, why you no buy carpet?” The tour guide said, and continued “Were they very expensive? How much? A thousand euros?” The owner then immediately snapped his fingers at one of his pawns “Hey! You no give this man good price on carpet?!” I assured them I was not interested and we were then fully on our way to being loathed by the guides.

Many Morrocans speak several languages and a friend who speaks Spanish overhead them saying “Americans are stupid and will spend their money on every dumb thing they can.” Why they didn’t just say this in Arabic is beyond us, it’s almost like they wanted someone else to hear it.

We are all hounded and followed to buy overpriced trinkets...theme of the afternoon.
We are all hounded and followed to buy overpriced trinkets…theme of the afternoon.

After over an hour in the hot shop, without being offered to even buy a drink, I was becoming very tired and dehydrated. It was then back outside, to be thrown to the trinket vulchers again, as we continued on to the spice shop. Upon arrival, we were gathered in a semi circle once again and it was time for another presentation. The spice man had a remedy for everything. “Common cold that can’t be cured?…Is myth!” He said. He stopped short of selling a cure for cancer, but he even had natural remedies for snoring and herpes.

Bell and the others, while also annoyed, were not as dehydrated as me and were taking note of the reasonably priced spices they were interested in. I was groggily doodling on my paper, ready to collapse from exhaustion. After what seemed like an eternity, I left the presentation and asked the guides to please have someone purchase water on my behalf. “It’s siesta time now so many shops are closed” the main guide said. When they saw I wasn’t budging, they sent a boy off to fetch me a large bottle of water. I was boycotting the spice presentation otherwise.

The spices were not exorbitantly priced so I reluctantly went along with purchasing a few at 3 for €10. I was hesitant to buy anything, because Bell and I were to meant to spend the night and we felt we would get better deals on our own time the next day. But I was also starting to get wary of spending the night in Tangier. As our tour guide collected the money for the spices himself, the charade was becoming ever more clear.

As we went back out to the streets, one of the tours goons held out a cool bongo drum and asked for €20. I was adamant that I was no longer negotiating with any of them, but he eventually came all the way down to 4 euro, without us showing interest. And at that price Bell wanted it. As I went to pay he changed the price back up to 8 euro. A ridiculous first in our travel experiences. Obviously no deal. But the game continued as he dropped the price back down to 4 euro. I wasn’t falling for it again, but this time he wrapped the bongo and placed it in my hands. After I handed him the €4 he said. “how about 1 more euro?”

Moroccan men lounge in a cafe in Tangier
The final stop on the tour was not an opportunity to relax in a cafe over coffee or a beer. It was an opportunity for one last shopping frenzy. The man with the Moroccan soccer jerseys was back on the street following us. In his last ditch effort he pestered each person to buy, when they didn’t he shouted “f%ck you!” at each of us.

When were taken to the tourist trap epicenter of the Medina, we were given a final 20 minutes in the area to peruse the over priced shops, or stay in the small square and be hounded by the vulchers. After 20 minutes, we then waited in the square to depart, thinking the guides would lead us away to safety. Instead, they left us for one final storm of aggression. Some members of the tour cowered against a wall with a beaten look on their faces.

We eventually boarded the bus for the short ride back to the ferry. As we got off the bus, the guides, incredibly, asked us to tip them. Of the 50 people on our tour, we figured a few others would also be spending the night. But no, every single one of them were leaving except Bell and I! As we were saying good bye to our friends and debating whether we should stay, the tour guide told them to hurry off or they might miss the ferry. So our friends left to go back through immigration.

For the following day, Bell and I had planned to visit a cool artists village that the Spanish travel agent had told us about. But our tour guide informed us that the next day someone would come to our hotel and take us back to the Medina. Only this time, we’d be all alone. Wow, sign us up, clearly. At that moment I decided to veto any decision Bell had. I said “come on, let’s get out of here.” “Are you sure?” Bell replied. “Yes.” “Give us our bag back” I asked of the dodgy man with the white taxi van. “It’s ok, we’re with the tour company” he replied. I then went and popped the back open myself, retrieved our bag and we set off to join our friends. “Fine, go back to Spain!” He shouted.

Our friends were relieved to see us when we joined them. The line to clear immigration was massive, luckily one of the employees offered to take one of our friends to the front of the line in exchange for a bribe of 20 euro. He politely declined. After an hour wait, us, along with a few other Americans missed the ferry. Fortunately there was one last ferry 1 and 1/2 hours later, but it meant some of those Americans missed their connecting bus from Tarifa to Cadiz that was included in the tour.

Ferry leaving Morocco
Thumbs up to being on the ferry and leaving…

 

Tarifa, Spain parking lot. The 'Thank god we made it out of Morocco' group photo.
Tarifa, Spain parking lot. The ‘Thank god we made it out of Morocco’ group photo.

When we finally got on the ferry we were relieved and immediately ordered beers to celebrate that we were all leaving Morocco in one piece. And upon arrival in Spain, our friends were able to help the other stranded Americans by giving a ride to a couple and helping to arrange alternative transport for the rest. The day was a bonding experience and we left feeling like a few people we only met that day, were like family. We’re friends to this day, and obviously none of us would recommend this tour. Apparently, according to esteemed travel writer Rick Steves, Tangier is far better enjoyed without a tour. Monetarily, you barely pay extra for the tour, and now we understand why.

Where to Stay in Tangier, Morocco?

You’ll often find the best hotel prices on booking.com. Book something in advance with free cancellation! You can also find awesome value on apartments on Airbnb (with a lot of good reviews – very important anywhere, but especially in places like Morocco). If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here for a $55 credit off your first stay! 

 

4 thoughts on “Day Trip to Tangier, the Morocco fiasco: Part 2

  1. My wife & I just got back from a daytrip to Tangier. Judging by your pictures, we went to the same rug shop & restaurant as you. Our over all experience was very similar too.

    The first part of the trip wasn’t too bad, in fact is was quite fun in parts. The camels & the snake charmer etc, but after the meal it was a complete nightmare.

    We are not only convinced that our tour guide had arrangements with the shop owners, but also with the aptly put “trinket vultures” too. One of the trinket sellers approached me selling small wooden boxes, I liked the look of them and thought it would be a nice present for my mum, but just as he was approaching me our “tour guide” began shouting at him in Moroccan. The seller quickly ran away. The “guide” didn’t seem to bothered about protecting my group from any other sellers or harassment, In fact, we had the same trinket sellers following us for most of the day.

    At one point, our “tour guide” pressured a young American girl (19, 20) in to borrowing money from her friends to buy something from one of the shops, as she wouldn’t use her credit card in Morocco.

    We had a similar experience with the spices too, a cure for everything was supposedly in front of us. The spice sellers all wore long white doctors coats, trying to add authenticity to their claims.

    We were supposed to have 1 hour of “free time” on the tour, but with all the harassment we’d been through, all the shops we had been dragged too & forced to listen to sales pitches, all the trinket vultures following us, we really didn’t want the free time. Which was handy, as we didn’t get it, no doubt because the tour guide wanted to control where we spent our money.

    Nightmare

    1. Gareth- Ugh, it’s a shame this disaster keeps happening over and over again. On every tour, to soooo many people. It leaves a bad taste in peoples mouths about Morocco.

      The lab coat on the spice guy!! Yes! I believe I forget to mention that.

      Everyone- please don’t take the tour!! Just catch the ferry over and have a walk around yourself. The beach is very nice and you can have a stroll with far less hassle. The Bizarre is also a short walk from the ferry. If you’re keen you could then negotiate with a taxi to take you to some scenic areas. Otherwise do bizarre, beach, lunch & coffee/alcohol. Far better day trip than the nonsense the tours provide!

    2. We went through the same thing, the first part of the trip was fun, interesting and informative but guided to stop at places to buy from trinket sellers with “free time”. The restaurant they took us to was nice, clean and the food was decent, my kids LOVED it. The walk in the souk was overwhelming. The vendors would say nasty things in Arabic if we did not buy from them. The “tour guide” who called himself Eddy Murphy was in on every deal, every cent and we felt very “played” right up to where we were asked to wear the stickers identifying us as a tour group. We were told that the police would leave us alone if we wore them. The stickers made us a mark for the trinket vendors. We took ours off and kept them for when we went to re-board the ferry. We did get beverages at the local café, I made sure I tipped our waiter, it paid off because he let us sit down later on and escape the trinket salesmen on the streets.
      Everybody has their hand out or in your pocket, everybody has an aggressive sales pitch in this part of the Souk.
      I would also strongly recommend that women who do visit dress conservatively, this is a Muslim country and the Muslim men will treat you very disrespectfully if you dress in short, bottoms, strapless or bra strap type tops with lots of cleavage. Two young women on our tour wore less than conservative clothing and had, long blond worn hair down, not up and were followed and harassed the entire time. The tour guide did nothing to help them.
      I would do Morocco again over a day or two, but with a personal guide and would do more research into what I wanted to see.
      The tour *IS* inexpensive and safe, but not for me.

      1. Hi there! Thanks so much for sharing your experience and providing some great additional tips for people looking to travel to Morocco! Your day sounded almost identical to ours.

        Glad you were able to escape for a bit to a nearby cafe. When we were touring the souk it was siesta and many things were closed and we just didn’t see a nearby cafe that was open. I wish we could have experienced that and had a nice break from the afternoon madness of constant sales pitches, street badgering and verbal hassles.

        Good advice about women dressing modestly. There was actually a blond American girl on our tour who looked a little like Taylor Swift and when the tour started she was actually blowing kisses at some men walking on the sidewalk from the bus. Luckily for her she stopped doing that when she got off the bus!

        We’re looking forward to returning to Morocco one day and experiencing the country with either a better tour, or visit some less touristy places independently where you aren’t hassled. We’ve also heard very mixed things about Marrakesh- it can be very hit and miss for people.

        The blue town of Chefchaouen is meant to be beautiful and the locals are apparently very friendly, so it’s also great if you’re travelling independently. Much more laid back than Tangier, Marrakesh and some other big Moroccan cities!

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